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Brussels, 10 August 2004

Commission suspends imports of ostriches from South Africa after avian influenza outbreaks

Following the confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) outbreaks in two ratite (ostriches) farms in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, the European Commission today adopted a decision suspending the import of live ratites and their eggs, meat and products of ratites and pet birds from this country into the European Union (EU) with immediate effect until 1 January 2005. Avian influenza is a highly contagious poultry disease that can cause severe economic damage to the poultry industry and can, in exceptional cases, be transmitted to humans.

On 6 August, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in two ratite flocks in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa have been confirmed. The detected AI virus strain (H5N2) is different from the strain that has caused the epidemic in Asia and probably poses inferior public health risk to the Asian one.

The South African authorities have immediately suspended all exports of live poultry, pigeons, ratites (ostriches) and other birds and meat and eggs from those species from the whole Republic of South Africa to all their trading partners and informed us about this situation and measures. The Commission immediately informed the Chief Veterinary Offices of the Member States.

At this moment, for poultry and poultry products the Republic of South Africa is only authorised to export to the EU live ratites and their hatching eggs, fresh meat and products from ratites and birds other than poultry (pet birds). In fact the EU only imports small quantities of meat from ostriches from South Africa.

However, in view of the risk of animal disease introduction into the EU, a Commission decision is appropriate. Therefore, the Commission suspends the imports of live ratites and hatching eggs of these species and of fresh meat of ratites, meat preparations and meat products consisting of, or containing meat of those species and live birds other than poultry from the whole territory of the Republic of South Africa.

These measures, adopted by the Commission today, enter immediately into force. They are for the moment applicable until 1 January 2005. In the meantime, the South African authorities should provide the EU with detailed information on the disease situation and the measures taken to bring the disease under control. In the light of the information received the EU measures could be reviewed.

The adopted Commission decision and the disease situation in South Africa will be reviewed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

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